My last batch of books brought a lot of sequels home lately and I’m continuing today with the InCryptid series by Seanan McGuire, specifically, Midnight Blue-Light Special. She’s a very prolific writer. Her big October Daye series has its eight book due this fall and she won a metric ton of awards and nominations for the Newsflesh series writing as Mira Grant. I started in when InCryptid was brandy new via recommendations from Scalzi and Jim Hines.
The series is really hitting its stride with Midnight. We’re getting right to it with Back of the Book time!
Telepathic mathematicians. Chess-playing dragons. Boogeyman nightclub owners. Talking mice. The Price family has spent generations studying the monsters of the world, working to protect them from humanity – and to protect humanity from them. Verity Price is just trying to do her job, keeping the native cryptid population of Manhattan from getting into trouble, and doing a little ballroom dancing on the side. But her tenure on the East Coast is coming to an end, and she’s still not sure what she wants to do with her life.
Enter Dominic De Luca, an operative of the Covenant of St. George, and Verity’s on-again, off-again boyfriend. When he tells her that the Covenant is sending a full team to assess how ready the city is for a purge, Verity finds herself between a rock and a hard place. Stay, and risk her almost-certain death, or flee, and leave the cryptids of New York with nothing between them and the Covenant.
It’s not the kind of choice that ever comes easy. With allies and enemies on every side, an no safe way to turn, it’s going to take some quickstepping for Verity to waltz out of this one. There’s just one question on everyon’s mind: Is this the last dance for Verity Price?
Point blank, I liked this one better than the first book, Discount Armageddon, which I blogged about before I really hit my groove with these posts so I’m not going to link back to it. There’s a lot of establishing world building that had to take place in Discount even though it’s a variant of New York. There’s Price family history, Covenant history as the baddies, plenty of different cryptids to describe and their whole interaction with the world around them. All those things are already done. Even with a year since I read Discount, I never felt any sort of steep learning curve with Midnight. I forgot a couple of names but McGuire caught me up without having to drop into an infodump, one of the hallmarks of a great sequel. You could get away with reading Midnight cold, but since Discount is a good book in its own right, there’s no real reason to.
The more of McGuire’s work I read, the more I think she is to urban fantasy as Cherie Priest is to steampunk. This series is everything that urban fantasy should aspire to. Granted, UF is somewhat of an umbrella term for a large swath of subgenres, but I still hang my hat on that statement. The InCryptid books should be considered a high water mark, a Tome for urban fantasy.
Let’s get specific to Midnight now though. There’s a Romeo and Juliet thing going on in this book which telescopes certain parts of the plot out ahead of you. This completely being flagged as a personal preference thing. If you like sneaky foreshadowing and romantic plot threads on the down low, you might get a bit annoyed. It doesn’t bother me one bit, the romance or picking up on what’s coming up. The Romeo and Juliet kind of romance certainly isn’t new, nor is it subtle, but it works. There’s a reason the world still reads the Bard after all these years.
Before anyone gets all in a wad over romance, first of all, get over it. People like each other. It creates conflict. Conflict creates good stories. The relationship plot thread certainly isn’t the only one in this book. There’s problem solving, ass kicking and shit hitting the fan (which involves more ass kicking). I think because the heavy lifting of the world building was done in Discount, all those plot threads were able to breathe a little bit better in this book. Verity’s supporting cast got more room to move around in Midnight too. Sarah, Verity’s adopted cousin and psychic cryptid herself, got POV chapters. McGuire was able to deftly pull off the “almost human but not quite” voice for Sarah. There was also a whole lot of Istas who is thoroughly awesome. She’s essentially an Inuit werebear that loves gothic lolita fashion. She pouts when she’s told she’s not supposed to talk about bloody carnage more than once per conversation with regular people. I would read a whole book about Istas.
I want to take some time to talk about the cover art for Midnight before I’m done. This may well turn into a full blog post later
but since this book has the cover I want to talk about, it’s appropriate here. Science fiction and fantasy as a whole suffer from an image problem when it comes to covers with women on them. Look at Jim Hines’ blog as it’s something he talks about in the most humorous ways while always having real valid points. Short version, SF doesn’t usually seem to realize that women can look good AND be tasteful about it at the SAME TIME. Urban fantasy as a subgenre seems to carry the stigma in its own special way to boot. It all too often has this “Buffy rip off” look about it. I think these things are starting to get better, particularly the Buffy look, but it’s still prevalent in the genre. The cover art for Midnight breaks the mold in all the ways it should have been broken a long time ago. The characters are accurate to the story and they are entirely tasteful. Verity is wearing a regular cut shirt and jeans. Appropriate and practical ass kicking attire. Sarah is on the cover with Verity and she’s wearing a long sleeve sweater and a long skirt. Regular clothes. Entirely appropriate to a character that’s a self defined math nerd. While I think it’s unfortunate that tasteful and true to the story cover are a note worthy thing and not just the standard MO for the genre, I think it’s more important to point out the good examples of the genre thinking the way it should be than just harping on the bad. This cover art by Aly Fell is a cover that should be aspired to.
Doesn’t hurt it’s for a novel that should be aspired to as well.